For this last release in the Heikki Sarmanto Serious Music Ensemble rare live recordings series, the Finnish jazz-rock band were joined by saxophone player Eero Koivistoinen for a wild night of scorching music at the N-Club, a small basement rock club in Helsinki, in 1972. A few of the tracks were included on both Vol. 1 & 2, but here with Koivistoinen they take on new life, starting off with "Free Lance", as blazing sax eventually gives way to Heikki's majestic Fender Rhodes excursions. The more melancholy "Near But Faraway" is pure post-bop, sultry sax floating over gentle electric piano, elastic bass lines, and flowing drum fills, while the mammoth "3rd Version" approaches free-jazz at times with a cacophony of sax noise before Sarmanto glides effortlessly with some magical Rhodes over acrobatic drumming. The complex time signatures of "Quetzalcoatl" remind of very early Return to Forever, Eleventh House, or Mahavishnu Orchestra, minus guitar, as Lance Gunderson is nowhere to be found on much of this album, though he does appear on the frantic "Seagull", which is 18-minutes of sizzling jazz-rock fusion complete with blazing guitar solos, electric piano, and wild drumming.
Kudos to Svart Records for not only unleashing some sensational live jazz-fusion recordings from the vaults here with The Helsinki Tapes Vol 1-3 (from a band most jazz fans have probably never heard of), but also keeping us all on our toes with their ever varied roster of artists. Job well done as always!
01 Free Lance
02 Near But Faraway
03 3rd Version